My mom, Collene Spencer was a sweet, loving, and forgiving person all her life. She carried that personality into her marriage and motherhood. I’ve really never met anyone who was as truly kind hearted as my mom was. All of her life she had a heart for people. She tried to tell people about the most important thing in her life…her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Mom wanted everyone she came across to be in Heaven when they died. Mom was in every way a missionary…just without the funding that many missionaries have. She didn’t travel the world to preach the Gospel, she traveled her world preaching the Gospel. It didn’t matter where she was, if she was with family, friends, or strangers, her mission was clear, and she was a willing servant of the Lord. My guess is that the people she led to the Lord by preaching to them numbers in the thousands. It is her legacy in many ways.
Mom loved all things of beauty. She grew up collecting rocks, and her rock garden was filled with her many finds. She saw beauty in many different things. Our home was decorated with Mom’s own special style, that also included the “artwork” of her girls from time to time. I can’t say that our “artwork” really added to the beauty of her home, but in her eyes they were treasures. I know how much she treasured these things, because when we went through her things after her passing, there were her treasures, including the artwork of her girls. Her girls and her husband, my dad, Allen Spencer, were her world. She wanted nothing more than to take care of us and make a good home for us, and she did that very well, even though she was not able to be a stay-at-home mom for all of our growing up years.
Mom always loved to travel. It was something Dad introduced her to, and together, they traveled the United States, visiting almost every state. The vacations we took and the places we got to see were amazing. They showed us every historical marker they could find, and while we might not have appreciated those markers then, we learned so much about our country. I think I can attribute many of my stories to things I learned from my parents. Camping was the order of the day when we traveled, and cooking over a campfire, until later when we got a travel trailer. Mom was an excellent cook and she passed that ability down to her girls. There wasn’t one of her girls who couldn’t cook when we got married, and our husbands have been the beneficiaries of her teaching. She was an amazing teacher of many things, including helping out at our schools, even substitute teaching when I was in grade school. It was another way that she traveled her world, filling it with life, light, and beauty as she went. Today would have been my mom’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.
The Christmas rush is behind us for another year. The gifts are purchased, and wrapped, and for many people, already opened. Christmas dinner is being prepared and families are gathering together. The house is filled with laughter and conversation and stomachs are growling just a bit as the aroma of the turkey fills the air. It’s hard to wait for the meal to be ready. It’s such a wonderful time to be sharing with family. Many people think of these big dinners as a lot of work, and it can be almost a relief to have them over, but really, they are a gift. All to quickly, children grow up and sometimes, move away, and before you can even blink, everything has changed. All the more reason to cherish the times you have, while you have them.
So much has changed since the Christmases of my youth, and while I wouldn’t go back, because then I wouldn’t have my precious daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and now the new little great grandbaby that is on the way in late spring 2018. But, I do wish my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer were still here. Having them in Heaven brings a little bit of a melancholy feeling to an otherwise cheerful season. Nevertheless, knowing that they are spending their days in Heaven with Jesus…the reason for this season, makes me feel very happy for them, even if I’m sad for me. It has been 10 Christmases since I have seen my dad, and 3 Christmases since I’ve seen my mom, as well as, 5 Christmases since I’ve seen my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. It’s odd, I suppose to think of how many Christmases they have been gone, but they were such a big part of what Christmas was for me, as well as every day of my life, that I find it really hard not to contemplate the fact that so much has changed in the years since they left, and just how much we miss them.
While the commercialized part of Christmas is about giving and receiving gifts from loved ones, it is the ultimate gift that really is what Christmas is all about. I don’t know what other people think about gift giving, but for me, it is God’s children imitating the Father. God gave us the ultimate gift, when He sent His son, and Jesus gave us the ultimate gift when He gave His life for us. We can never give a gift that could begin to compare to the precious gift that God gave us, but it is a show of our love for each other, and I know that makes God happy. He wanted His children to love each other, just as He so loved the world. I’m thankful for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and for the price He later paid, because without Him none of us would receive Heaven when we passed away. That you Father for your precious gift, and thank you Jesus for paying my debt. Happy birthday Jesus. We love you!!
The older I get, the more that I know that Heaven is my true home. Never is that fact more clear, than on Resurrection Sunday, because whether we know the exact day or not, we know that it was that day that the Christians first knew that they were truly right with God again. Many people have disputed the celebration of Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, saying that it’s roots were in paganism, but I have to say that I refuse to give the devil any day on this earth. I know why I celebrate Easter. It’s not because of a bunny, but because of a lamb. Jesus is the Lamb of God…the sacrifice that paid for the sins of the world…past, present, and future. And now, because He lives, I know that I can face tomorrow. It is because of the grace of God…the unearned, unmerited favor and mercy of a loving God that I get to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. That is what the day is about, and if we are celebrating it on the wrong day, I don’t think God will mind. It’s not about getting the day right, but rather getting the reason right.
The sacrifice that Jesus made on Good Friday was so much more than what we often think about. Yes, when Jesus died…an innocent man, it was to forgive all our sins, past, present, and future, but the reason he returned to the earth was to justify us…to put us back in right standing with God forever…just as if we had never sinned. That is why we can say that we are a new creation when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour…because God no longer sees our sins. They are gone forever. When Jesus died on the cross, the sacrifice was enough. Nothing more is required, and all we have to do is accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, and we are going to Heaven. The cross was all it took…the cross was enough!!
Most of God’s celebratory days, include a feast, and Resurrection Sunday should be no different. Resurrection Day is a celebration, after all. Someone said that Earth’s saddest day, and it happiest day…are only three days apart. Today, I am thankful for the sacrifice my Lord Jesus made, and for the triumphant return to earth that followed so that I could always know that the cross was enough, and I am going to be alright…now and in Heaven. Thank you Jesus, for your sacrifice!! Happy Resurrection Day everyone. Have a blessed day!!
The presents are purchased, the packages wrapped, all of the commercialized aspects of the day are over now and there is finally time to take a moment to ponder the real reason for the Christmas season…the birth of our Saviour…Jesus. So often, we spend so much time rushing around trying to get ready for the holiday, that we have little time to think about the wonderful thing our Father, God did for us!! We were a world lost, and destined for Hell!! He had no obligation to help us. We got into this predicament by ourselves…and He could have left us there, but God’s love is not like human love. We hold grudges…even with those we love. God does not hold grudges, but rather, He set out to make a plan to turn it all around. He came up with a plan to send Jesus to Earth…and worked it out so that He lived a sinless life, as a human, and then paid the price… the ultimate price. And Jesus agreed to the plan. He gave his life for us so we could live our lives under grace, and receive Heaven and not Hell in the end.
So often, the birth of our Saviour is all but forgotten in the mix of Santa Clause and a big dinner. I find that really sad, especially in light of the sacrifice He made for us. I can’t imagine being God and deciding to take on a human form, much less a baby who is for much of its young life helpless, and forced to rely on others for all your needs. Then, while you had never sinned in any way, you are taken captive, beaten, and nailed to a cross. Then in the only way it could possibly work, Jesus was separated for God, while he took all the sins of the world on himself. It had to be, because the worst result of sin, is separation for God. That would be far worse than Hell could ever be. God’s love is the most important thing we have. It is what saves us from the pit of Hell.
There is nothing wrong with the Christmas traditions we cherish so much, and giving has always been what God is all about. The main thing is that in the midst of all of our traditions, we take time to be thankful for the greatest gift ever given. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16, one of the most important verses in a book that is the greatest book ever written…the Bible. God is love, and when we sinned, He stepped up and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. He sent a Saviour named Jesus. And that is the real reason for the Christmas season. Merry Christmas everyone!! May God bless you all!!
I think most people have heard the Bible verse, John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” People may not realize that this is a Bible verse, but they know what they thought was an old saying. Either way, the verse was talking about Jesus dying on the cross to save the world from it’s sin, but I don’t think that was all it was about. It hadn’t really occurred to me before, but when my pastor was preaching a couple of weeks ago, this verse was part of his sermon. Of course, he talked about Jesus sacrifice, but suddenly something jumped out in my mind. This verse was about far more than Jesus sacrifice, or it wouldn’t have talked about the greater love a person can have if they choose to lay down their life for their friend. It was about how we are all supposed to be.
It was at that moment that a thought came to me. There is more than one way to “lay down your life.” Of course, the verse meant to die for your friend, and many is the hero who has done that, but it occurred to me that dying is not the only way to lay down your life for someone. In fact, caregivers lay down their life all the time. They set aside their normal life activities, and take the time to take care of another person. I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but rather I want to talk about all of the many caregivers I know of and those I don’t, because their sacrifice is amazing. The patient they care for, would be in a nursing home, were it not for the loving kindness shown to them by a friend or family member who laid down their own life to give that time to another. It is one of the greatest showings of love there is, and it is also very rewarding for the caregiver, although sometimes it is sad too. For just a little bit of time, almost always a relatively short lived little bit of time, at least in the grand scheme of time, you have the chance to be the wind beneath their wings…the one who holds them up and cares for their needs…the one who had the privilege to lay down their own life to care for a loved one.
Yes, greater love hath no man, than that a man lay down his life for his friend…to actually die for his friend, but there is another way that is just as wonderful, and just as loving…to lay down your own needs, desires, activities, time…to care for another human being who desperately needs your help. So here’s to all the Caregivers I know, and to all those that I don’t know. You truly are among the greatest of people on Earth, because you have make a sacrifice that shows the ultimate amount of love you had for your loved one. It makes me proud to be a part of such an elite, amazing group of people. Today is National Family Caregiver Day, and I hope it is an amazing day for all of you.
With Christmas fast approaching, I am reminded of the Christmas of 1984. With their cousin Jessica Hadlock Sawdon, arriving shortly before Christmas, my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce wanted to do something special for her…even though they didn’t know then if the baby was a boy or a girl. We could have gone and purchased a blanket, an outfit, or a toy, but so could anyone else. The girls wanted their gift to be different from what everyone else was going to give. They were learning to crochet, and so it was decided that Corrie would make a blanket and Amy would make a bonnet. They worked very hard on their gifts, and on Christmas morning, they proved to be a stunning success. My girls beamed with pride at how their gifts were received.
So often, these days, Christmas has become so commercialized that it often isn’t about the gift given, but rather about just how much was spent on it, that seems to matter. But, on that Christmas, for my girls, it was about their gift being made with love. Every stitch they put in the blanket and bonnet was a learning experience for them, and they couldn’t wait to see what their Aunt Allyn and Uncle Chris Hadlock thought of the gifts they had worked so hard on. Needless to say, the blanket and bonnet were very happily received. Their gift was a huge success, and no one gave a thought to how much money was or was not spent on it.
There were a lot of gifst given that day, and I’m sure that many were wonderful, and very much appreciated, but I also know that my sister, her husband, and now Jessi all remember the gifts that were made and given with love by two little girls who loved their new cousin very much, even though they did not know her yet and in fact, didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. The things we do for people out of love, while not necessarily expensive, are often the most treasured of the many things we receive over the years. They can’t be measured in a monitary way, because they are indeed priceless.
As Christmas approaches, of course, the most important thing to remember is the reason for the season…Jesus…the Saviour of the world. Jesus was the greatest gift, but in today’s world, I think it is always a good idea to remember more than just the gifts we received, but rather the spirit in which they were given. Whenever we act in love, we give the greatest gift we could have given…ourselves. And that is priceless for sure.
It was really hard for Mom, as a widow to stay in this place after the love of her life, my dad had moved to Heaven. Her heart was divided between her children and grandchildren, and her desire to go home. She spoke to us about it. It was a conversation similar to the thoughts the Apostle Paul laid out in Philippians 1:23-25, when he said, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” This was exactly how Mom felt…a desire to go home and be with God and our dad, and yet she felt the need to step up into the position of spiritual head of our family. Mom spoke of the need to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour often. She wanted to make sure we were all ready to go to Heaven.
Nevertheless, the desire to stay and lead the family in the ways they should go is not an easy one when your heart is in Heaven. Mom and Dad rarely spent time apart in their latter years. I think that while it was needful for Dad, and later, Mom to work outside the home, those were the hardest years for them, because really, all they wanted was to be together. Not many couples can easily spend that much time together, but they could have spent their whole married life working and playing together, and the only thing that would have made that idea even better would have been if their children and grandchildren could have been right there with them too. That was just how much their love and their family meant to them.
While Mom’s desire to stay and be a leader and comfort to her children and grandchildren was a strong one, seven years can take it’s toll on a person who is waiting to go and join their other half in Heaven. Mom was simply not complete anymore. When the marriage vows declare that the two are become one, something changes. Each person in the marriage contract is now actually one half of the whole person. I don’t know how God does that, but He does, and Mom’s other half was in Heaven and she missed him very much. My sisters and I have been looking through pictures for Mom’s slide show, and it has been very hard to find really good ones, because we noticed something in those pictures that somehow we had missed when we looked at her. The sparkle in her eyes was gone. When did that happen? Why hadn’t we noticed it? Maybe because we were too busy dealing with our own grief over the loss of our dad.
This all seems so sad, and it is, but it is also a happy time. Our parents are together again. It is such a happy time for them. There is a party going on in Heaven, and they are singing happy songs. While our hearts are breaking, they will mend. It is only because we will miss her so much…we miss them so much. And yet, we could not be happier for them, because as it was in the beginning of their marriage, they have moved to their new home, and they are now awaiting the arrival of their children and their grandchildren. They are together again…praising the Lord…just as we all will be one day. We love you both Mom and Dad. We will step up now, and become the spiritual heads of our families…leading them in the way they should go. We will see you both when we can all be together again. We love you.
Many people, myself included, believe that our country was founded and populated in an effort to escape religious persecution. Looking back on several branches of my family tree, as well as that of my husband, I see the personal accounts of a number of people who dealt with persecution first hand. People such as my Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, who makes not of it in her journals when she speaks of her father, my great grandfather, Carl Schumacher’s return trip to Germany to visit family members who were still living there. During that time, the German government was doing it’s very best to force people to deny the very existence of God on any level, and their lack of any need for a god to lean and rely on. So often, I think of religious persecution, such as we have in the United States today, as being a problem of the current times. I suppose that is because it feel very personal to me at this time in history, but in reality, I suppose it is nothing new. In fact, the Bible says that there is no new thing under the sun.
When my great grandfather made the trip back to his homeland, he had plenty of time. His visit was extended for several months. It was most likely during that time that he became more and more convinced that his move to the United States was the right one for him. While he was free, or at least relatively so, to practice his faith in his own way, there was, nevertheless, a number of incidences whereby doing so could be frowned upon to say the very least. That fact would not be something that would deter my grandfather from standing on his faith, and it would renew his love for his new country, and his reasons for coming here to it.
I have run across many other ancestors, particularly on the Knox side of the family who suffered persecution from people in their homeland over their choice of religious beliefs. It’s strange to think that when someone receives a revelation concerning God’s word, that they are immediately looked upon as severely brain damaged. Why is it that people would assume that we humans, with our small minds would somehow have the capacity to know everything God intended for us to know…that there couldn’t possibly be anything else for us to learn from His word. And yet, that is exactly what we do. That is why our forefathers left the old world, and came to America in the first place. The churches they were forced to be a part of, or the removal of any kind of religion from their lives had left them with no choice but to leave the country they have called home all their lives, and move to an unknown world.
I don’t know how many immigrants arrived here as a result of religious persecution, but I do know that our nation has somehow lost sight of why we first began to exist. There are so many religions in the world today…especially Christians and Jews who are bring brutally persecuted right now. I still believe in freedom of religion. I may not agree with some of the religions in the world, but each person should have the right to believe as they choose. And no one should ever have to pay for their beliefs with their lives. I know that this world will probably not change that until Jesus returns, and I think that is very sad.
My niece, Michelle Stevens has, in her mother’s words, always been a character. If she wasn’t up to one thing, she was up to another. Michelle is in college working toward a teaching degree. She plans to be an art teacher. I think that might have been why she dreamed so many things up in her lifetime…even as a small child, she imagined things quite different than a non-artist might.
When Michelle was about 2 1/2, my sister, Alena Stevens, who is Michelle’s mom, put her down for a rare nap. Michelle was one of those kids who didn’t like to sleep at night, if she had a nap during the day. Nevertheless, since Alena was pregnant with Michelle’s brother, Garrett, and pretty close to full term, with an very active 2 1/2 year daughter, she was exhausted and in need of a nap. The plan was to put Michelle down for a nap, and take one herself, and it was working out quite well too. Then, Michelle woke up and came out of her room. As usual, she yelled out, “Mom!” Alena didn’t answer right away, because she just assumed that Michelle would come into the bedroom. But, Michelle didn’t come into the bedroom, and then Alena heard her trying to comfort herself by saying, “She be right back” in a pretty shaky, almost crying voice…”She be right back.” Alena immediately called out, “Michelle, I’m in the bedroom.” Michelle ran into the bedroom and jumped up on the bed. Alena cuddled with her and told her that I would never leave her alone…thinking sadly to herself that this must be how abandoned children feel.
Of course, most Michelle stories aren’t a mix of sad and funny. There was a funny incident in Sunday School, when they made a clock as a project. The clock face said “Jesus has time for…” The child was supposed to write their name in the space. For some strange reason, Michelle wrote her name as EMOP. Alena and her husband, Mike Stevens thought it was so funny that the clock hung on their refrigerator for a year. That name stuck, and they still call her EMOP sometimes, even though she is 27 years old. I have to wonder what she was thinking when she wrote EMOP, because she knew how to write her name by then.
Kids say the funniest things, and they don’t think about what they are saying, they just say what’s on their mind. Alena was video taping Michelle one time as she was singing the alphabet. Michelle was only about 2, and like all little ones, she got stuck on one of the letters. Since she was taping this and she wanted it to be perfect, Alena whispered the letter to Michelle, so as not to ruin the video. Well, Michelle understood about whispering, but not necessarily the whispering was supposed to be speaking really quietly. So she whispered back really loudly, “What Mom? What’d ya say?” Of course, all this was being recorded, and it looked so funny on the video. Needless to say, this…like the other stories here are all time favorites of Alena’s. They are the treasures of a child’s life. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Thanks, Michelle, for giving us something to smile about today. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Every Easter families gather together to eat a big meal and enjoy each other’s company. Most of us use just about any excuse to have a huge meal filled with all the best dishes we can think of. The meal often consists of ham and brisket at our house. And of course, what Easter dinner would be complete without eggs in some form…usually for breakfast and dinner. All those eggs the kids colored had to be used in some way, after all. In our family, the eggs are called angel eggs, because for obvious reasons, we don’t like the term deviled eggs. I really don’t want the devil involved in anything in my family…even the eggs.
But, more importantly, as Christians, we come together to remember the sacrifice our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ made to save us from our sins. We were in a horrible mess. We had all sinned, and there was no way out of going to Hell…not that we could manage anyway. Nevertheless, God is a loving God, and His children really are His life. He devised a plan to save us from the mess we were in. He sent his son, Jesus, who left His home in Heaven to come to earth, as a man, to live a sinless life, and then to die on the cross anyway, because it was the only way out for us. A sinless man had to die to pay the price for a world of sinners.
I saw a post yesterday on Facebook with the message, “Friday happened, but Sunday is coming.” That is so true. There is nothing we can do about the fact that our sins caused the need for a Saviour, Jesus to come and die to save us. That is in the past, but our future is eternal in Heaven, because of the selfless act of our Saviour. It is God’s love, grace and mercy toward his children that allows us to walk away from the punishment we all deserved, and live forever with Him. We can never thank Him enough for sending His Son. We can never thank Jesus enough for choosing to come and die in our place. All we can do now is rejoice!! Friday happened, but Sunday came three days later, because God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son!! Jesus willingly paid the price, defeated the devil, and the rose again to proclaim that victory!! Sunday is here!! He is risen!!! Jesus is alive!! Rejoice!!